Felix Coetzee, the man who rode the great Silent Witness, is to take a guiding role in Hong Kong’s apprentice jockey development as a consultant with the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Apprentice Jockeys School.
The key position, which will require Coetzee to make a handful of week-long visits to Hong Kong during the racing season, is specifically designed to utilise the internationally-renowned former jockey’s knowledge and experience, with a clear aim to improve the apprentice jockeys’ race-riding skillsets and also enhance the apprentice training programme.
Coetzee, a three-time champion jockey in South Africa and one of his country’s great sporting ambassadors, will work with the Hong Kong Jockeys School’s full-time coaches to teach and mentor Hong Kong’s apprentice jockeys and ensure they reach the required level of race-riding proficiency. He will also assist in the process of determining which trainers will be allocated Hong Kong apprentices, both in Hong Kong and overseas.
“It is an honour to be invited by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and I am incredibly excited about this opportunity. Mentoring in Hong Kong is something I have really dreamt about doing for a long time and I am so glad to have the chance now,” said Coetzee, who was based in Hong Kong between 1992 and 2008.
“We have a long-term plan for my work,” he continued. “My goal is really to get to know the jockeys as much as possible, about them as people. I have been doing some great work with sports psychologists in South Africa, people who work with athletes on the mental side of sport, and I really look forward to applying my learning there.
“I have been mentoring some of the young apprentices here in Cape Town and find it very rewarding. Once you get involved, it becomes such a passion to watch them develop.”
Since his retirement from the saddle in early 2014, Coetzee has also been pre-training horses in Cape Town for some of South Africa’s most prominent handlers, such as current champion trainer Sean Tarry. But he is excited about connecting with Hong Kong once again.
“I had so many great experiences when riding in Hong Kong, too many to mention, really,” he said. “Everyone is so passionate about their roles. The owners are great, the trainers too, and not to mention the racing fans really are the best in the world.”
Ms. Amy Chan, Headmistress at the Apprentice Jockeys School and Racing Development Board Manager, is looking forward to being able to tap into the experience Coetzee gained in a riding career that spanned more than 30 years and yielded more than 3,500 wins, 75 of those at Group 1 level.
“Felix has ridden all over the world and his record at the elite level is outstanding, so to be able to tap into that kind of expertise is a rare privilege for our young apprentices, and one from which they will really benefit,” said Ms. Chan.
“He has a genuine passion for mentoring young riders and when you combine that with his international experience and his knowledge of Hong Kong race-riding, I have every confidence that he will be an excellent asset to the school. I am sure we will see our apprentices raising the bar as a result of his input.”
Felix Coetzee biography
Felix Coetzee, 56, will be forever associated with Hong Kong’s standout legend, Silent Witness. The South African was the only jockey to climb into that coveted plate during the gelding’s 29-race Hong Kong career that featured a record-setting 17 consecutive wins, two G1 Hong Kong Sprint victories and a famous triumph in Japan’s G1 Sprinters Stakes. Coetzee arrived in Hong Kong in 1992 as stable jockey to Brian Kan and subsequently teamed up with David Hill and then Tony Cruz. He left Hong Kong in December, 2008 but returned for occasional bookings, notably Singapore speedster Rocket Man’s win in the 2010 G2 Jockey Club Sprint. By the time he retired from the saddle in February, 2014 he had racked up a total of 652 wins from 6,143 starts in Hong Kong. Coetzee’s top level successes in Hong Kong also included Lucky Owners (Hong Kong Mile & Hong Kong Derby), Helene Mascot (Hong Kong Classic Mile and Hong Kong Derby) and Bullish Luck (Hong Kong Gold Cup). Coetzee’s father, Hennie, was a trainer, and his grandfather was an owner/trainer. He entered the jockey academy in South Africa at age 15. A three-time champion in his homeland, he was stable jockey to the renowned Terrance Millard until that trainer’s retirement in 1991. Coetzee notched 3,508 wins and no less than 75 Group 1 wins internationally in his long and distinguished career. Noted for his professionalism as a rider and a superb judge of pace, Coetzee is a mine of experience and has always been generous in offering advice to young riders.
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Felix Coetzee was ever-present on Hong Kong��s greatest champion, the legendary Silent Witness.